report that the maternity ward of a hospital can be one of the saddest. It's a
dark and rainy day; the initial rush of excitement is gone; the baby is keeping
you up all night; you are tired and discouraged, and you find yourself asking,
"Why did I ever get myself into this situation?"
any great success or triumph, after any of the great accomplishments of life,
there's normally a reaction, a falling back. You can almost feel things slowing
down, returning to the routine and the mundane.
must have been like that for the disciples after that first Easter Sunday. None
of them had actually seen the resurrection. They had heard the reports about the
empty tomb; a couple of them had seen a mysterious stranger on the road to Emmaus,
but even if it actually were Jesus, so what? Things were quickly returning to
Even if you could,
like Thomas, reach in and touch the wounds in his body... Even if you had solid,
certifiable evidence that the resurrection was real, there would still be the
bills to pay, the meals to plan, the problems of life to solve. On April 15th
our taxes come due, resurrection or not! So it was for the first disciples.
April 15, |
our taxes are due
had been to the mountaintop with Jesus, but now they had to face blue Monday.
On the morning after the resurrection the disciples woke up to the fact that the
world looked pretty much the same as it had looked before they ever men the man
from Galilee. It sometimes looked bleak, and it sometimes looked discouraging,
and so they began drifting apart.
of them headed north to Galilee where it all began just three years before. They
even returned to their fishing boats. It had been a heady three years, following
Jesus to become fishers of men. But on the morning after Easter Peter and the
rest turned back to their boats, and that's where we find them this morning in
our text. (John 21:1-25)
the scene opens, these former disciples, these professional fishermen are not
having much luck. They have labored all through the night, casting their nets,
putting out their lines, rowing their boat back and forth along the shore. But
still, at dawn the nets are empty. It's a dark and depressing morning for sure.
Not only have they lost the one who brought meaning to their lives, now they seem
to have lost their luck at fishing. Then, as the sun peers over the horizon, they
see a lone figure standing on the shore. The man signals to them; he seems to
you in the boat! Children! Haven't you caught any fish? Why not try casting your
nets over their to the starboard and see what happens!"
can imagine the weary eyes of these disciples glaring with resentment. This stranger
is telling a boat load of seasoned fishermen how to conduct their business, and
he calls them children to boot. Experts, professionals, experienced at every nuance
of their trade, these men know it will make no difference at all whether they
put their nets to the port or the starboard, the fish aren't biting in any case.
cast your nets to the starboard," he insists.
it out of desperation, or merely to prove this arrogant stranger wrong that they
cast their nets once more, on the starboard just as he suggests. As it sinks beneath
the silver, grey waters of the sea, suddenly it is alive with fish!
disciples spring to action, pulling with all their strength, pulling upon the
lines, pulling and heaving as the water swirls with life. The load of fish is
so great that even these fishermen are not able to bring that net back into the
But then, as the lines
are being secured and they prepare to row the boat to shore, dragging their nets
behind, they look again at the man on the beach. Suddenly they recognize Jesus.
It's him! Peter can't wait until they row the boat to the shore. He plunges in,
swimming for all he is worth. On the beach Jesus has prepared a charcoal fire.
He has fresh bread warmed and waiting and he roasts them some fish in the fire.
Jesus has prepared a warm welcome for his friends. Again he speaks, "Come and
eat. Let us break bread together." And that is all he needs to say. For in the
breaking of the bread and in the sharing of a meal, they know it is the Lord.
surprisingly, commentators have seized upon the curious fact that when they counted
the fish in that morning's catch they found 153 of them. As you might imagine,
there has been a great deal of speculation about that curious number 153. One
early commentator reports that Greek zoologists of the period listed 153 different
kinds of fish in the oceans of the world. So that by using this number, the gospel
writer is suggesting that the ministry of Jesus is like a net which encompassed
the entire world. All kinds and conditions of people are to be caught up in the
networks of grace. All of us are to be encompassed by God's unbounded love: Democrats
and Republicans, socialists and communists, Baptists and Methodists, gay and straight.
Like it or not, God is trying to include us all.
that blue Monday after Easter, Jesus completed a conversation which he had begun
with these same disciples in this same location several years before. At the beginning
of their relationship Jesus called to them from these same shores, "Come, he said,
"I will make you fishers of men."
at the conclusion of his time with them, he issues an even greater challenge.
The disciples must now take the good news to the four corners of the globe. The
nets of faith must be spread far and wide until every class and condition of people
has been included. They must now make his mission their own.
was the very last time Jesus would see them. From that moment the disciples would
be God's ambassadors in this troubled world. They would take God's truth to Syria
and Greece, to Italy and Spain, to Africa and later to Europe and America. They
would carry the good new across the seven seas and across numberless generations.
Jesus brought meaning to their blue Monday for sure. He bequeathed them his own
mission in life. To be sure - had the disciples known then what this calling would
mean, they may never have accepted his challenge.
the years to come some of them were arrested, some crucified, some of them thrown
into prison, and some were sawn in two. And to be sure, others have become poets
and philosophers, dancers and singers, butchers and bakers, even candlestick makers.
Yet these same disciples, then and now, are struggling to make Christianity a
truly international community, encompassing every race and tribe. So it's important
that we keep in contact with our sisters and brothers in countries like South
Africa and Russia.
are to be Christ's true disciples we must begin thinking and acting like we care
about the fate of God's children throughout this wide world, not just our own
families and neighbors. Like the first disciples, we are challenged to build a
community of faith that crosses every border and hurtles every barrier separating
people one from the other. How are we to begin? In the first instance, simply
by remembering the story of Christ's encounter with his disciples there by the
sea. And recalling his simple words:
and have breakfast."
fitting. For Jesus, the transformation of the world begins in such a small and
simple way. A group of friends having breakfast early one morning by the sea.
I realize some of us have problems with the idea that Jesus could have returned
from the dead to rustle up this little breakfast. Perhaps it was only the memory
of what he would have done that struck them so vividly that morning as they shared
a meal along that familiar shoreline. But whether you believe he was with them
in memory or in the flesh, the image is the same.
was not lecturing them, he was not preaching, he was saying quite simply,
break bread, have breakfast with me."
he was willing to cook the fish himself.
is the risen Christ, the one who is called both Lord or Lords and King of Kings,
roasting a few fish for his friends. It strikes me that's the perfect image of
how we can face the challenge of blue Monday. Whether it be a dark and cloudy
morning or a dark night of the soul. Be not anxious that you have not sustained
the heights of ecstasy or the pinnacle of success. Mourn not that this morning
or any other morning lacks the wonder, the joy and the majesty that we have come
to expect of Easter. Thank God for the simple things. On your morning after it
may be enough to offer a gift to a friend. Cook a meal for somebody; send a note
or email to someone you haven't seen for awhile.
in such simple ways, the foundations of the world begin to shake. Amen.
© Charles Henderson; images used by permission, Corel Corporation.